Maine recreational gold prospecting regulations 

updated March 4th 2016


Here in Maine there have been several rule changes over the past few years regarding recreational gold prospecting and specifically motorized recreational gold prospecting. In an effort to provide prospectors with a current list of regulations and listings of closed areas for motorized prospecting we have put together this list.


Maine is unique in that the organized towns and unorganized towns fall under separate jurisdictions for rules. Organized towns fall under Maine DEP and Natural Resource Protection Act rules and Unorganized townships fall under the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) rules. Most of these rules are similar but it is important to know the area you plan to prospect and review the appropriate rules to ensure you are in conformance.


General Panning and sluicing regulations (no motorized equipment, electric pumps etc.)

Gold Panning and Sluicing is allowed all year without a permit as long as the stream banks are not disturbed for most of the Maine rivers and streams unless the property owner has closed the resource to this activity. It is highly recommended that you research the area and ask permission to prospect from the landowner. While the water is the property of the State, the gravels and minerals of a river or stream belong to the landowner. Always obey posted signs and the rights and wishes of the landowner when prospecting.



Motorized recreational gold prospecting regulations for organized townships

There are several changes in the rules regarding motorized prospecting in organized townships that have become law in recent years.

-          Closed season for motorized prospecting Sept 16th to June 14th. (Same as LUPC rules)

-          Horsepower is now limited to 7hp

-          Landowner written permission is required

-          List of closed rivers and streams

The lists of closed rivers/streams are provided either in the statute for critical or high value habitat or under the list of Classification of waters where references to AA. The classification of waters lists are in 2 parts, Major drainages and Minor drainages. Please review both lists. All AA waters are closed to motorized prospecting.


The regulations listed below can be found at:

§480-Q. Activities for which a permit is not required


5-C. Motorized recreational gold prospecting.   "Motorized recreational gold prospecting" means the operation of small-scale, motorized equipment for the removal, separation, refinement and redeposition of sediments and other substrates occurring below the normal high-water mark of a stream for the noncommercial, recreational discovery and collecting of gold specimens. "Motorized recreational gold prospecting" includes, but is not limited to, the operation of a motorized suction dredge, sluice, pump, rocker box or winch, individually or together.


5-A. Motorized recreational gold prospecting.   Notwithstanding section 480-C, a permit is not required for motorized recreational gold prospecting as long as the provisions of this subsection are met.

A. A person may perform motorized recreational gold prospecting only from June 15th to September 15th and only with written permission of the relevant landowner. [2013, c. 260, §1 (NEW).]

B. A person may not perform motorized recreational gold prospecting that causes an undue adverse effect on natural resources. The area in which the motorized recreational gold prospecting is performed must be kept free of litter, trash and any other materials that may constitute a hazardous or nuisance condition. [2013, c. 260, §1 (NEW).]

C. The following provisions limit the use of equipment in motorized recreational gold prospecting.

(1) Equipment may not have any fuel, oil or hydraulic leaks or cause any unlicensed discharge.

(2) Motorized equipment may not exceed 7 horsepower.

(3) The inside diameter of a suction dredge intake nozzle and hose may not exceed 4 inches.

(4) The area of a sluice may not exceed 10 square feet.

(5) A flume may not be used to transport water outside of a stream channel. [2013, c. 260, §1 (NEW).]

D. A person may not use mercury, nitric acid or other chemicals for extraction in motorized recreational gold prospecting. [2013, c. 260, §1 (NEW).]

E. A person may not perform motorized recreational gold prospecting in a manner that:

(1) Disturbs a stream bank, including but not limited to digging into the bank or dredging or altering water flow within a stream channel in a manner that causes the bank to erode or collapse;

(2) Removes or damages vegetation or woody debris such as root wads, stumps or logs within a stream channel, on the bank or on nearby upland, including cutting or abrasion of trees;

(3) Diverts, dams or otherwise obstructs a stream;

(4) Deposits soil, rocks or any other foreign material from outside of the channel into a stream; or

(5) Deposits stream bottom sediments or rocks onto the bank or upland. [2013, c. 260, §1 (NEW).]

F. Upon completion of one or more consecutive days of motorized recreational gold prospecting, a person who performed the motorized recreational gold prospecting shall smooth out dredge spoils and refill dredge holes below the normal high-water mark of the stream in order to restore the approximate original contours of the stream bottom and not deflect the current. [2013, c. 260, §1 (NEW).]

G. Motorized recreational gold prospecting is prohibited within the following areas:

(1) Waters closed to motorized recreational gold prospecting in the unorganized territories identified in rules adopted by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Maine Land Use Planning Commission;

(2) Waters closed to motorized recreational gold prospecting identified in rules adopted by the Department of Environmental Protection;

(3) Waters defined as Class AA waters pursuant to section 465; and

(4) The following areas of critical or high-value brook trout or Atlantic salmon habitat:

(a) Bemis Stream and tributaries in Township D and Rangeley Plantation;

(b) Bond Brook in the City of Augusta and the Town of Manchester;

(c) Bull Branch of Sunday River and tributaries in Grafton Township and Riley Township;

(d) Carrabassett River and tributaries in the Town of Carrabassett Valley, Freeman Township, the Town of Kingfield, Mount Abram Township and Salem Township;

(e) Cold Stream tributaries, including Tomhegan Stream, in Chase Stream Township, Johnson Mountain Township and West Forks Plantation;

(f) Enchanted Stream in Upper Enchanted Township and Lower Enchanted Township;

(g) Magalloway River and tributaries, including Little Magalloway River, in Bowmantown Township, Lincoln Plantation, Lynchtown Township, Magalloway Plantation, Oxbow Township, Parkertown Township and Parmachenee Township;

(h) Rapid River in the Town of Upton and Township C;

(i) Sheepscot River and tributaries, including the West Branch, in the Town of Alna, the Town of China, the Town of Freedom, the Town of Liberty, the Town of Montville, the Town of Palermo, the Town of Somerville, the Town of Whitefield and the Town of Windsor;

(j) South Bog Stream in Rangeley Plantation;

(k) Spencer Stream and Little Spencer Stream tributaries, including Kibby Stream in Kibby Township, Skinner Township, T.3, R.5 B.K.P. W.K.R., T.4, R.5 B.K.P. W.K.R., King and Bartlett Township and T.5, R.6 B.K.P. W.K.R.; and

(l) Togus Stream in the Town of Chelsea and the Town of Randolph. [2013, c. 536, §2 (AMD).]

Class AA waters closed to motorized prospecting: